I thought pet weddings were for, you know, people under the age of ten
. My family held two pet weddings -- one for one of the roosters and his #1 hen, and one for my sister's duck and her hapless drake. My baby sister was the driving force behind all of this. Since I was 12 or so, my sister must have been about 10. These are as I remember them, so, like any good story, they will have gotten better in the telling. But I think these are close to how they actually happened.
The chicken wedding was a lot of fun, because everyone involved was treating it like the elaborate joke it was. It followed hot on the heels of my baby sister's favorite violin teacher getting married in an elaborate swirl of pageantry. In retrospect, I can see how the adults were treating it as a much-needed venting of all the things they couldn't say about that
wedding. (The chicken couple actually lasted longer, because they were fundamentally compatible, both full adults of their species, and he didn't wander off any more than usual when one of her eggs hatched. By the time the Bantam Bantam was widowed courtesy of a hungry dog, the human couple had dissolved in a storm of parenthood and irresponsibility.)
It went off beautifully -- the bride was radiant in the lovely cream and white dress that Mama had made for her (and too cooperative to try and back out of it -- it was basically a fabric funnel with enough room for her head to stick out the front, and lace around the edges) and the groom was not actively flapping and squawking (disgruntled but too dignified to make a fuss), and ever so handsome in a black felt vest that fitted neatly under his wings.
The ceremony was held outside, in our clubhouse/stage. (Mama had built it some time previously; it was a little shack with a side that could be lowered and propped on a bench, forming a platform suitable for dramatic performances. There were even curtains.) Decorations consisted of a piece of metal wiring conduit, bent into a crude arch, secured at each side of the stage, and festooned with tissue paper flowers. "The Arch of Happiness," Dad called it.
Dad pronounced appropriate vows for chickens (the rooster had to keep a watch out for stray dogs and goshawks, and when calling his hens over for food, he wasn't supposed to eat it all himself; I think the hen was supposed to stick close to the flock and not wander off into the woods and get eaten and a few other appropriate things), and the happy couple ate a cornbread muffin and we humans used it as an excuse for a summer party.
In contrast, the duck wedding was not quite
a complete fiasco, but it came close a few times. The little round brown hen had been my sister's special pet once the chick had hatched, but then my sister got the idea of ducks in her head. So there were ducks. And then, after one of the ducks (mine) died, my sister decided we needed two
ducks, and since she was going to be wanting to breed ducks later and have ducklings, wouldn't it make sense to have a drake? And why, our virtual aunt had one! And then once there was the drake, my sister set her sights on a wedding
. And not just any wedding. She was determined that while the chicken wedding had been Good, this Duck Wedding would be Perfect.
Now, a few words about my sister. The phrase "give an inch, and they'll take a mile" was invented to describe her. She had decided at an early age that she was going to try to use debate, logic, and pure filibustering to get her way when it wasn't given to her immediately. She had learned her lesson about whining (don't), but she would bring up the same topics again and again, talking about the benefits of giving her what she wanted in such a pleasant and reasonable tone that it actually started to seem like almost a good idea, for the hour you were listening to her talk to you. You'd remind her of past disasters, and she would tell you, with the conviction born of true belief, that such a thing could never happen this
time after all the lessons she'd learned from the past disaster. (The possibility of different disasters never seemed to occur to her.)
She was a born saleswoman, and would soon have you agreeing that yes, that made sense, and that, and that -- never noticing that the slippery slope that she was leading you down was actually the way to you giving her what she wanted. And then once you were out of range, you realized what a stupid thing you'd just agreed to. My parents followed the admirable and honorable idea of treating us like human beings, so once they said yes to us about something, they would not take back their word unless it was for a very good reason -- the same courtesy they'd extend to another adult. My sister wound up getting her way a lot
. And when my sister was on a Mission to accomplish something -- once she had the go-ahead -- all pretenses of rationality would drop, and she would become a singleminded demon in pursuit of whatever the hell it was that she was trying to accomplish this time.
The duck wedding was no exception. My sister proceeded to make the lives of the rest of us fairly miserable in classic Mother of the Bridezilla fashion. Nothing was too good for her precious duck and the Ducky Wedding. A simple cotton print funnel with lace edges would not be good enough for Her Duck, so Mama struggled with uncooperative synthetic satin to produce a creation that wouldn't trip the bride up by hanging down too far in the front, but hung flatteringly over the duck's broad feathery back. There was a veil, too. The groom's costume was more of a pain, with something like a tail coat and a shirt front attached to a collar with a bow-tie. Also slippery evil satin stuff. Mama's patience wore thin. Tay-Tay's patience wore thinner. There was snarling and snapping. I probably didn't help much, hanging around the outskirts and making sarcastic commentary.
This wedding had specifically invited guests, rather than just whoever wanted to show up for the party. The chicken wedding could have easily been rescheduled in case of natural disaster; there was just a cake and some cornbread. The duck wedding somehow wound up with the sort of lavish preparations I associated with one of Mama's all-out holiday parties. I kept my head down and watched from as safe a distance as I could manage.
And then -- on the eve of the wedding -- disaster.
It's relatively easy to corner chickens and make them dress up. Not so with ducks. Ducks are grimy and like mud. Tay-Tay was going to go corner the duck and bring her inside in the cage for the night, so she'd be ready in the morning when it was time to dress her up and start the wedding. Now, ducks are notoriously flaky creatures. The duck had a history of maneuvers like this, so it just figured that on the eve of her wedding, she would have to go and sneak out of the pen somehow, and completely disappear.
My sister was ... distraught. To put it mildly. There was weeping and wailing. My sister's entire LIFE depended on the Duck Wedding going perfectly, and the Duck Wedding would do no such thing if the bride was not there -- lost, fled, DEAD
... The night was dreadful. Once Tay-Tay had decided that something would be Just So, then woe awaited anyone or anything that thwarted her in her plans. This conspiracy of nature against her carefully-plotted wedding was an order of magnitude above the usual histrionics. I fled the scene in terror.
We were all up early the following morning. Despite my irritation with my little sister, I was worried about the duck too. She was a nice enough duck, and it would be a shame if something had happened to her. We stomped around the edge of the woods calling the name of her duck. (What self-respecting duck comes when called?) Just as we were about to give up, we heard a muffled quack
from the tall weeds at the edge of the woods. There was my sister's errant duck, sitting quite comfortably on what was clearly a nest. My sister snatched up the duck and began lecturing her about running away and getting everyone worried.
The wedding proceeded mostly as planned. Granted, the bride refused to wear her veil, and the groom was inattentive and flappy, and I'm sure my sister melted down at least once. But then it was over. Mama put down her foot at that point, and there were No More Critter Weddings. (Even though our two roosters Cello and Larkspur should at least have had a commitment ceremony or something, because they were always together and ignored the hens, even though with their relative sizes it never would have worked out physically.)